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Friday, September 28, 2012

Information Exchange: Teaching Information Literacy at the Reference Desk

It's funny how once you start to really immerse yourself into a subject, you begin to see it everywhere. For my 285 Research class, I'm really looking at the question of how we, as librarians and paraprofessionals use technology to enhance Information Literacy (IL) instruction.

In my research and reading for my 228 Advanced Reference class, I stumbled across a great article by James K. Elmborg entitled, "Teaching at the Desk, Toward a Reference Pedadogy" (2002). It's a little old for me to use in my upcoming assignment for my 285 class as far as my self-imposed guidelines for tech-articles but I felt it was such a good article about our role as teacher librarians, I needed to write about it somewhere.

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter at Gringott's Bank (2001)
Every time I read articles advocating the theme of"being one with the people" I chuckle a little and my mind can't help but wander off to a scene in Harry Potter ya'know where Harry timidly approaches the Gringotts banker up at the front of the room. I know, it's a bank in the picture on the left but think about it... it could be an exact picture of a library too! I know some of you have seen places like this and felt the very same way Harry's feeling in this scene. There's a little goblin standing perched up on his high platform, looking down at poor little Harry through his little half-moon spectacles in a really superior way. I just can't help myself, do you ever notice how sometimes that's how librarians perched behind their reference desk are sometimes portrayed in the media? and in some really stuffy libraries it almost seems that way still.

The idea where libraries are hushed environments... like the sacred spaces of church and really unapproachable librarians who keep up a really stuffy air about themselves--its just not that way at all or it really shouldn't be. I see information exchanged between ourselves and our patrons are flowing more on a horizontal plane rather than the vertical download that sometimes inadvertently occurs because we're pressed for time.

In the same vein, I like how Elmborg points out that "there has been very little discussion...about how to be an effective teacher at the reference desk" (p.3) and that the reference "interview" focuses too much on how to just ask the right questions to get the right answers with the end goal of giving the patron what they need in the most effective use of everyone's time. Elmborg's discussion of a "cognitive interview" where we as professionals are doing more than just exchanging information, we're attempting to understand how our patrons store and process the information we exchange with them. I like this personable approach--it's appealing to me.

But you have to look at what's do-able. Ideally, I'd love to sit and have really detailed discussions with patrons looking for information. I'd love to pick out the ones who seem interested in learning more, or perhaps learning how to locate information themselves. Whether you're working in a busy public or academic library or even helping out colleagues in a special library, most people don't have the time to take the personable approach to information seeking. Our society shapes us, and our society now is one of instant gratification, unfortunately. However, I really feel that we can take a lot of what Elmborg talks about in his ideas about one-to-one instruction. He says that, "perhaps the hardest part of learning to teach is learning to ask questions rather than supply answers" (p.6). His idea of a great reference teacher-librarian involves learning how to decipher what the patron wants through questions to help both parties come to a solid understanding of what the patron is really looking for rather than asking questions to get answers.We're not just answering questions under the assumption the Patrons always know what they're even asking for, we're helping them realize what they want so we can help them locate it. This is an information exchange on a horizontal plane.

Perhaps, there is a way we can re-structure the reference "interview" into being more of an information "exchange" where we can work with the patron to explore what it is they're really asking for. Positive experiences help establish trust, and confidence in the information seeking process. Setting the patrons up to have positive experiences will only result in them coming back for more "repeat business" and at the end of the day, the Patrons get what they need and the librarians are fulfilled because we were able to do a good job and help one more person that day have a positive experience.

Elmborg, J.K. (2002, July). Teaching at the desk: Toward a reference pedagogy. Libraries and the Academy 2(3). 455-464. doi: 10.1353/pla.2002.0050

For additional information about this article:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Volunteer with me for the Library 2.012 Conference!

I'm working with Debbie Faires as a Peer Mentor this semester and decided to help out as a volunteer moderator in the BlackBoard Collaborate forums for the virtual conference--you should sign up to help out! It's great experience and there will be some fascinating topics, I'm sure. Helping out with something like this is something you could  use for your eport too!

I know we get flooded with emails from school, so just in case you missed it... here it is again:

[slisadmin] Invitation to volunteer: Library 2.012 Conference (Debbie Faires)

Have you given a presentation in Collaborate? Have you held a group meeting? Have you attended a Collaborate meeting and would like to know more about how things work on the moderator side of a session?

You are needed to help with the Library 2.012 Conference, October 3-5. We have many presenters and each one would love to have somebody in their session who can assist. You can sign up to help with just one session or several--whatever your schedule allows.

Here's how to sign up to volunteer:

1. Join the Library 2.0 network.

2. Once your membership is approved – you’ll be notified via email – you can join the Volunteer Group.
  • Sign in on the Library 2.0 website using your email address and password.
  • On the conference home page, click "Groups."
  • Select the "Volunteer Group - Library 2.012"
  • Click the button “Join Volunteer Group – Library 2.012” located in the upper right side of the page. You’ll receive an email confirmation

You will prepare by joining a one-hour training session or listening to a recording.

Be an active part of this global professional conference by volunteering today!

See the Call for Volunteers.
Library 2.012 site:

Our education is only what we make of it, so while we're emmersed now as students get out there and get involved. Its all great experience and just looks great for your eportfolio and career development.

See you there!

Taking a step back in time. Literally and Figuratively.

I spent the last two weeks preparing, flying and helping my sister with her wedding up in Big Island, HI.

She lives near the town of Hawi (pronounced "Ha-vee") in the general vicinity of North Kohala at the very North tip of the Big Island and while green, lush and beautiful... there was not a wifi hotspot to be found. Library student, that I am, of course what's one of the first things I sought out in this small town (right after a place to eat of course)... that's right. I scoped out the town library--Bond Memorial Public Library in North Kohala (below).

Bond Memorial Public Library in North Kohala -- Big Island, HI

Now I know how to have a good time, but I didn't go up there solely for a good time (family, what are you going to do?) annnnnnd, I the clock doesn't stop for my school assignments. Needless to say, it made for quite the challenge to get online at all to get anything done so here I am, finally getting in an entry almost two and a half weeks after my last one!

Whatever time I could escape my obligations as matron of honor and general all-around big sister, support and emotional rock, I carved out small pockets of time where I could hang out in here and read. In anticipation of this upcoming unplugging from the grid, I had printed out a few articles to look at that I thought might help me in the direction I had planned to take my research on information literacy instruction.

My topic is going to focus on articles regarding IL Instruction via Digital Initiatives & Emerging Technology: How we're using technology now to teach students Information Literacy. Because technology is such a rapidly moving target, I wanted to focus on articles no later than 2009... but the more current the better.

I've been perusing a bibliography on IL Instruction by Johnson, Sproles & Detmering (2011) which has landed me at least three really pertinent articles I could probably use for my topic. If they're good, I plan on chasing the references to see if I can't locate any good leads for other pertinent articles. Because of my strict requirement on article dates, I doubt it'll be much good because of the time it takes the peer-review process to get the papers out and published but it won't hurt to give the references a quick once over.

References I've got on deck so far:

Bobish, G. (2010). Instruction 2.0: What are we actually doing?. Communications In Information Literacy, 4(1), 93-111.

Johnson, A. , Sproles, C. , & Detmering, R. (2011). Library instruction and information literacy 2010. Reference Services Review, 39(4), 551-627.
*The purpose of this 78-page-paper is to provide a selected bibliography of recent resources on library instruction and information literacy. PayDirt!

Wong, G. W. (2010). Facilitating Students' Intellectual Growth in Information Literacy Teaching. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50(2), 114-118.

Also, in my research, I've come across this really interesting video about digital literacy for our youngsters in school. It's a really interesting comment on how we can teach information literacy through media education in our schools.

Download from iTunes U

This video is available as a free download from iTunes U.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Am I e-literate?

My assigned research topic for LIBR 285 is Youth Information Literacy and Instruction. Don't laugh at me, but I'll be honest with you and admit, I don't exactly know what "Information Literacy" means.

Terms! Terms!! We all know what something IS but of course, chalk it all up to higher-education to force people to actually give everything a classification and LIBRARY and INFORMATION grad school? Yeah. I'm bombarded with terminology I've never heard before.

Well I started on a search trying to figure out exactly what Information Literacy (IL) meant and when I performed a search in our LIS databases via the LibGuide using this search term:

("instruction") ("information literacy") ("youth")

I came up with a few articles and thought... maybe we need someone to just get some information on CURRENT trends in information literacy instruction since its such a broad term. Every article I came across about "youth" and "information" was woven so deeply into technology and social studies that to really get a feel for the latest, greatest opinions in the field moving targets such as instruction in the digital age should be current research.

The ALA sums it up in one nice quote:
"Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learned how to learn. They know how to learn because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and how to use information in such a way that others can learn from them. They are people prepared for lifelong learning, because they can always find the information needed for any task or decision at hand.
American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy (January 10, 1989, Washington, D.C.)
Youth especially should begin learning as early as possible how to be discerning consumers of information.  Information Literacy is simply the process of knowing how to properly ascertain whether or not the information you're being exposed to is indeed factual. 

Avon Middle School in Massachusetts understands the importance of teaching Information Literacy and starts the process as early as the 7th grade. The video is a little bit dated but otherwise, I feel its a rather interesting and engaging look at what people understand IL to be and why it is a skill that is so crucial to learn in today's internet infused society.  

Check it out here:


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Do the Research, Be the Researcher

Prior to this class, I'd probably have said “I have no previous experience as a researcher per se, although I’ve done plenty of research, I don’t exactly classify myself as a “researcher” alone.” But then you’d have corrected me and told me I was a researcher the first time I set out to look for information on something I was interested in or forced to study in school! Don’t we all start out that way?

It’s nice to look at the big picture and realize I was a researcher long before I knew how to really do proper research. What’s even more inspiring, is that we start researching the very moment we have a desire to know more about something. Rewind to my my early experiences with my first rock collection and even further ahead to my interest in the history of Marvel & DC Comics, I began like many of you: in a library.

My first few successful attempts at researching information for my own personal use got me tapped into the realization that places like libraries were portals to anything and everything I could ever want to know provided I devote enough time to dig. That realization of course led me to feeling like I could do well in school, and perhaps become a teacher! Of course, reality actually hit wandering around from job experience to job experience in my high school, undergrad and early married life, I realized I had a passion for instruction and coupled with my love of reading, books and resource pools I found myself here in library school: the mecca for portals of research possibilities.

With the internet at our fingertips--armed with the know-how and where-with-all for proper search strategies in undergraduate school and then in graduate school we’ve pretty well equipped to being some spankin’ detailed researchers. The possibilities are exciting!